How to correlate your effort with your end game

How to correlate your effort with your end game

Do you wonder how much effort to invest in different pieces of communication?

Do you prioritise according to …

  • who your audience is
  • the type of document it is (email, paper, PowerPoint?)
  • how much time you have to prepare it, or
  • the business impact it will generate?

Let's use two routine examples that emerged in my coaching work this week to think about this and refine how we think about each of them using a simple framework.

First, two routine examples to set the scene

Imagine you have two emails to prepare today:

Example 1: A 250 word email seeking leadership support. You need your five-person leadership team to agree to change the course of your project in light of complications caused by an unexpected technical glitch.

The change doesn't require any extra budget but does require your team to change their priorities which will lead to deprioritising another important project.

Example 2: A 150 word email to 3,000 staff. You have discovered a new security vulnerability in the latest Google Chrome release and need the whole organisation to manually update their browser immediately.

The steps that each of the 3,000 people need to take are simple but critical and you are aware that many of your employees are not ‘tech savvy' and may need explicit instructions to complete the update.

So, how do you decide how to proceed?

Next: a simple framework to help you prioritise your effort

By thinking about two important dimensions: impact and size of audience, we get to a different conclusion.

This allows us to correlate our effort and our end game by prioritising our effort according to a balance between the impact the communication will deliver and the risk of slowing the organisation down (or worse) if it goes wrong.

And … a counter-intuitive conclusion

Both of these examples need ‘proper' investment but using this approach we would pay more attention to the Google Chrome vulnerability email. Here's why:

Although the email to all staff seemed fairly simple, the risks and potential time loss were both higher than that for the leadership email.

If the staff email was poorly done, the cost to the organisation would have been substantial

  • The steps for updating the Chrome vulnerability were easy if you were ‘tech savvy', but could be time consuming if not. In the real situation it proved to be easy to convolute the steps confusing colleagues and leaving a real possibility that they would give up. Aggregate this over 3,000 people and the cost to the organisation of getting it wrong is pretty big.
  • The current risk of being hacked is also intense for this organisation, making the risk of not updating the browsers higher than normal.

If the leadership email was poorly done, the cost would have been less significant

  • The cost to the organisation of the ‘hourly rate' of these leaders taking time to ask questions to clarify the message is less than the potential time cost of the staff email
  • The risks to the organisation are minimal as no extra budget or skills were required and time lost could be caught up in other ways if the project needed to return to the original schedule
  • The project leader is likely to have other opportunities to put their case in the not too distant future should there be confusion stemming from the email

I hope that provides some food for thought this week and look forward to sharing more ideas with you next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

‘Pitch your boss' kit to help you this budget season
If you want your manager to invest in your development, you need to do your homework before you have the conversation. Your manager will want to know exactly why this is the right program for you and how it will help the team and the organisation. We have provided a brochure, a draft script and some steps to follow to help you prepare for your conversation. Clarity First opens again in September

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

2 Critical Ingredients for Making Complex Stories Look Simple

2 Critical Ingredients for Making Complex Stories Look Simple

Last week I mentioned that I have been working on some huge stories lately, and that these have been instructive in many ways.

One of the most comforting is that even huge stories look simple when they are done: it's just that the process for getting there isn't so simple.

By trusting the process and the structures and continuing to ask ‘Why?' when it didn't look right, we landed a super simple story that packed a powerful punch.

Here are two key takeaways from our experience:

Trust the storylining process and structures together with your instincts to land the story
Keep asking ‘Why?' to make what is obvious to you obvious to your audience

On the surface, these two ideas appear simple too. Trust me when I tell you that our heads really hurt after our session even though our story looked incredibly simple too.

 

Trust the process and structures together with your instincts to land the story. If I reflect back on why we were able to land a simple and clear message for the $1bn savings story, it was because the stakes were too high if we did not.

The team could not afford to have the Minister ‘unpick' the messaging given they wanted a major shift away from the Minister's preferred approach for prioritising investment initiatives.

So, the challenge was to find a high-level structure that resonated and to deliver it with precision and skill, listening both to our instincts as well as our structures.

We chose a Close The Gap deductive structure, and relied heavily on the finer detail within the deductive modules supported by The So What Strategy and the Ten Point Test to bring it home.

While it took a while to agree on the high level structural pattern, it took much longer to make it ‘sing'.

 

Keep asking ‘Why?' to make what is obvious to you obvious to your audience. The key that turned the lock for us was the answer to the age-old ‘dumb question': Why?

Why was the team's approach better than the approach that the Minister was wedded to?

This proved challenging and took quite some time to articulate as the team was so close to the problem and to their solution, which highlights a common challenge we all face.

By the time we write our stories, we are ‘sold', so we want to move to how we will deliver the new program / project / or whatever we are discussing.

However, our audience isn't there yet which means we need to shift our own heads back in time to surface our own reasoning.

This is why it was so hard to say that ‘the greatest chance of successfully improving X system while cutting expenditure is ensuring that the division heads ‘own' the approach.

On the surface that is so simple it's almost silly. However, trust me when I tell you it wasn't easy to get there.

I suspect you are familiar with the challenge, which is why I thought it might be helpful to raise it here.

So, in terms of next steps for you: I encourage you to think about opportunities within your own communication where you need to persist to articulate the ‘right why'.

Wishing you a great week.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

Keywords: deductive storylines, Close the Gap

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

How to Communicate the Right Amount of Detail

Clarity has never been easy.

But as we discuss in this workshop, we have a number of great techniques to make it achievable in your everyday work life.

We look at three simple steps to help you communicate the right amount of detail:

  1.  Know that being shorter isn't always better
  2. Be crystal clear about your purpose and audience
  3. Learn how to synthesise

We explore our ‘So What Strategy' framework which provides you with a roadmap each time you prepare a communication.

We also explain how Clarity First can help you consistently create clear and powerful communications that give your audience the information they need, so you have the best chance of getting the outcome you want.

New job offer after ‘Best Ever’ Presentation

Brendon was offered a new job on the back of a ‘best ever’ presentation

 You might also like to hear how Brendon was asked to repeat his interview presentation so it could be used as a training video.

They said it was the best presentation they had seen and, of course, offered him the job on the spot.

Brendon landed here having been a lateral hire into a Big 4 firm who needed to catch up on the sort of training that longer-tenured consultants had received. 

Clarity First filled the gap for him, and many other senior consultants who want to polish their skills so they can level up their careers.

Hear it from Brendon…

 

 

Learn how Brendon achieved this.

Hear from other program participants

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Promoted because of communication skills

We are always delighted to hear success stories like this from our participants.

Elle was recently promoted because she improved her communication skills after just 3 months in the Clarity First Program.

Naturally she was delighted to move from director to senior account director. She had been in her role for a bit over a year and was ready.

Her boss told her that to move to the next level, she had just two things to conquer and that Clarity First was ‘all she needed’ to get over the line.

 

Hear what Elle has to say about how Clarity First has helped her succeed… 

 

Learn how Elle achieved this.

Hear from other program participants

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

Why do stakeholders focus on the minutiea

Why do stakeholders focus on the minutiea

Have you noticed how easy it is to spot the tiny errors in communication, particularly when it was prepared by someone else?

When our stakeholders read our paper, watch our presentation or lose the thread of our message when we speak, they focus on the things they can understand.

This is, I think, why feedback often doesn't help us much.

We are asked to improve things that are easy to fix but sit on the surface of our communication: our ability to write, prepare charts or to find ways to become more confident in front of the room when presenting.

Feedback around the substance comes in the form of generalities that are hard to pin down such as ‘be more strategic' and ‘focus less on the detail' without specific advice on how to do that.

The challenge is to work out how to communicate so you get fewer:

  • Clarification questions
  • Requests to meet and discuss
  • Requests to rework your presentation

My number 1 suggestion for combatting this is to spend more time than you think you need to in clarifying two things before you prepare your communication:

Your purpose: What do you want to achieve with this specific piece of communication?

Your audience: Who are they really and what information do they really need from you to get the outcome you seek?

These two areas are foundational in nailing your messaging so you get less of the wrong kind of feedback, deliver more value … and enjoy your work more.

One of our clients summed it up beautifully this week:

“The magic about storylines is that they don't often get noticed or stand out unless you've made a mistake and it is harder to make mistakes when you use them”

Have a great week, everyone,

Davina

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

The power of ‘why’ in getting more done quickly

The power of ‘why’ in getting more done quickly

This is what happened to Chad.

Chad is a software developer at a trading firm.

Although fluent, English is his second language and this makes him nervous about his communication abilities.

He has also had feedback that his communication can be too aggressive, which has heightened his anxiety.

However, when I meet with him I find a warm, engaging and enthusiastic person who does not seem the least bit aggressive.

So, what is going on here?

To illustrate, I will first outline the situation that led to a lengthy and frustrating email chain, then offer our before and after emails before offering two questions you can ask to avoid putting yourself in Chad’s position.

The situation that led to a lengthy and frustrating email chain

When Chad and I worked through an email chain between him and some overseas colleagues, the issue slowly became apparent.

His communication was polite and detailed.

But it missed one critical ingredient.

Instead of explaining why something needed to be done, he jumped straight into how the overseas colleagues needed to do it.

This, in turn, led to a ten-email chain debating the details of the task, with a heavy overtone of ‘do it yourself’ from the overseas team.

Let's have a deeper look at the issue by reviewing the original email and an alternative.

Our before and after emails

Even though the information is technical, I think you’ll see what I mean when I show you the original (sanitised) ‘so what’ message versus the revised one:

Original – We need your help to come up with the implementation that supports System A in filtering the symbols and foreignID.

Revised – Given our own ABC filtering mechanism leads to a configuration that is hard to maintain, we need your help to implement ‘System A’ in filtering the symbols and foreignID.

Interestingly, the rest of the email changed dramatically too. 

It no longer consisted of a list of reasons why the suggestions from the overseas team were wrong, it included a list of reasons why he needed their help.

On reflection, he decided that if he had drafted this email in the first place the whole chain of about 10 emails would have been avoided.

And the problem would have been fixed much sooner.

So, how to avoid this happening to you?

Two questions to ask to avoid putting yourself in Chad’s position

This experience raises an important issue for me that I hope will help you also.

Before ‘smashing out' your next email request ask yourself these two questions so you are sure about your audience's situation:

  1. Are we certain that the people we are asking to help us know why we need their help, not just how we want them to help?
  2. How much time would we get back each week if we routinely slowed down and stopped to think about our audience's situation before we hit send?

I hope that helps.

Have a wonderful week.
Davina

Keywords: strategy, emails, ESL

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

Clarity and insight are not the same thing

Clarity and insight are not the same thing

This week in Clarity First we have been having lots of discussion about things that are both core to communication and on the fringe of it.

One big ‘aha' moment came during Thursday's Accelerator Workshop.

‘This isn't just about communication. It's about negotiation', said one new participant.

This was a magical penny drop.

The same penny drop occurred in three other corporate workshops I ran. 

To craft a clear message is a critical and useful thing to do.

To crafting an insightful message is not the same – and frankly harder to do.

It involves both doing and not doing a number of important things.

Crafting insightful messages requires you to do many things, including the following five:

  1. Be crystal clear about your value-adding purpose. This is where negotiation skills start to play a role.
  2. Understand your audience deeply. People skills, stakeholder management, business acumen as well as negotiation are key here.
  3. Summarise the right data accurately. Critical thinking plays a key role here
  4. Draw out useful insights. Ditto here, along with synthesis and again business acumen. Think carefully as to whether your message will hit the right notes at the time it is delivered.
  5. Tie all of those things together to craft one single, powerful, insightful message that packs a real punch.

All of this means avoiding, at a minimum, the following three things:

  1. Creating meaningless titles in Word and PowerPoint that look like this: Finance or Sales or Risks
  2. Blindly filling in templates without constructing an overarching narrative for the whole communication
  3. Holding back from sharing a point of view.

I hope that helps. Have a great week.

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

A BIG week indeed …

A BIG week indeed …

You know your stuff.

You have been working on it for a long time.

You have been promoted.

But now you need to deal with more senior stakeholders and nobody seems to be able to articulate what they need from you.

And, in looking at your predecessor's communication you can tell it's not how you want to communicate.

But … how do you communicate to your new leaders?

So, what if you could go from here to:

  • Nailing two major approvals in one week (involving millions in funding)
  • Getting fast and consistent ‘yesses' from leaders
  • Being awarded for overall excellence in your role

But, enough from me. 

Cerise should tell her own story.

First, the email then the short video.

 

Learn how Cerise achieved this.

Hear from other program participants

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This post was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas since joining McKinsey as a communication specialist 20+ years ago. 

She helps experts clarify their thinking so they can prepare powerful and strategic communication in any format. It might mean preparing for a difficult meeting, getting ready for a project steering committee, putting forward a business case or writing a board paper.

She bases her approach on The Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ combined with other powerful techniques to help experts of all kinds globally strengthen their communication skills.

 

The Narrative Fallacy

The Narrative Fallacy

Today I step into dangerous territory.

Over the summer I completed a fabulous online course called The Art of Reading.

One of the modules encouraged us to think critically about what we read and gave ideas on how to do that.

One item that stood out to me was the idea of the narrative fallacy.

I think the the course author, Shane Parrish is right.

There is something important at stake here for us when we prepare our communication.

The fallacy suggests that we are all wired for story – so far so good.

However, the challenge comes in creating our own narratives to justify things that have already happened, or predicting what will happen in the future.

Shane suggested that using story, rather than facts and logical reasoning, to create our view of the world and to make decisions is not only dangerous, but more common than we realise.

This is something that at Clarity First we wholeheartedly agree with.

Story is central to engaging busy audiences in complex information. Humanising it can also go a long way to doing that.

However, ‘story' – sometimes also referred to as ‘narrative – can be dangerous if not used well.

Shane's article The Narrative Fallacy suggests that although narrative makes us feel better, but is often a sham.

For example, Steve Jobs was told that because his adoptive father was a detailed-oriented engineer and craftsman, Steve Jobs also paid extra attention to the fine details of Apple designs. He denies this is the case, claiming his own personality and motivations as being more important drivers.

He was also asked whether his quest for perfection came from an idea that he needed to prove himself, given he had been adopted out. He claimed this was patently false, and that his adoptive parents made him feel special regardless of what he achieved.

Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan) had a similar story, and fact checked his hunch that his professor had no justification in attributing his ability to see luck and to separate cause and effect to his Lebanese heritage.

Click the link below for suggestions to help you think critically and assess whether a narrative can be trusted to accurately draw cause and effect links or whether it is just a great story.

>> Click here to read more <<

If you want to take these ideas a step further to learn how to tell a story that is both logically sound AND engaging, click here to learn more about the Clarity First Program.

This month by month program enables you to learn at your own pace as you work towards turning your communication skills into an asset.

Keywords: critical thinking, storytelling

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.

Shop Co Case Study

During these times of uncertainty clarity in your thinking and communication is vital.

This case study of a communication sent to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic offered an excellent way to illustrate the need for top down and bottom up thinking, a topic we have be discussing regularly of late here at Clarity First.

This rich case study encourages you to:

  1. Take more time to think about your strategy before you start
  2. Work top-down to build your story, testing bottom-up
  3. Anchor everything around a storyline

Click the play button below to learn more and here to download the handout and here for more program information and here for information for your manager

Introduction to synthesis bonus expires 29 July

Kick start your learning with the two-part Bonus Workshop Program

> Get going immediately so you can see results straight away

> Learn the basics so you have a strong foundation to build on

> Complete challenges so you do more than ‘know the stuff' … you can start to ‘DO the stuff'

The Introduction to Synthesis Part 1 Workshop will be held on 30 July at 8am and 6pm Sydney time.

This will be followed by Part 2 on 1 September.

Recordings will be available for those who cannot be present live, or who want to revisit the material.

This bonus offer expires at 9pm AEST on 29 July.

This was the best course I have done. I was always confident in my reasoning but not as confident with presenting it, particularly to audiences that were not on my wavelength.

Davina has shown me how to organise my high level messages which gets me a better response from my audiences.

In fact, when I used the approach to present to the sales team last week half of them came up to me individually afterwards to compliment me on my presentation. That has never happened before!

Bojana

Customer Experience Advisor, Sydney, Australia

 

Clarity First was incredibly useful for me as it has provided a framework through which I am able to structure my initial thoughts quickly and easily.

I have always been OK at delivering communications, but the tools Davina has taught me will not only make the communications clearer and more concise but the time taken to get to the end point has reduced greatly.

I recommend the course to anyone who wants to make existing skills even better or for those that want to create the foundations for great communication.

Michaela Flanagan

GM Performance and Strategy, Insurance Industry

Keywords: ShopCo Case Study, workshop, free

How do we know when we are fooling ourselves?

How do we know when we are fooling ourselves?

It might shock you to know that our brains are quirky and more like Homer Simpson's than we realise.

In Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes how we lie to ourselves just like Homer does.

He suggests that we make up stories in our minds and then against all evidence, defend them tooth and nail.

Understanding why we do this is the key to discovering truth and making wiser decisions.

In this piece I lay out the overview of his argument and illustrate through a business example.

 His argument leans heavily on an evolutionary bug in our brains that critical thinking strategies can resolve

He suggests there’s a bug in the evolutionary code that makes up our brains.  Apparently, we have a hard time distinguishing between when cause and effect is clear, such as checking for traffic before crossing a busy street, and when it’s not, as in the case of many business decisions.

We don’t like not knowing. We also love a story.

Just like with Homer did in this short clip, our minds create plausible stories to fill in the gaps in other people's stories to construct our own cause and effect relationships.

The trick is to have some critical thinking strategies to help us evaluate other people's stories and our own. To help us avoid telling stories that are convincing and wrong.

We need to think about how these stories are created, whether they’re right, or how they persist. A useful ‘tell' is when we find ourselves uncomfortable and unable to articulate our reasoning.

 A real life example brings his argument to life in an uncomfortably familiar way

Imagine a meeting where we are discussing how a project should continue, not unlike any meeting you have this week to figure out what happened and what decisions your organization needs to make next.

You start the meeting by saying “The transformation project has again made little progress against its KPIs this month. Here’s what we’re going to do in response.”

But one person in the meeting, John, another project manager, asks you to explain the situation.

You volunteer what you know.
“After again failing to deliver on their KPIs, we recommend replacing the project leader with someone from outside the organisation who has a proven track record with transformation programs. The delays are no longer sustainable.”
And you quickly launch into the best way to find a replacement team leader.

Mary, however, tells herself a different story, because just last week her friend, the project leader, described the difficulty her team was having with two influential leaders who were actively against the transformation program.
The story she tells herself is that the project leader probably needs extra support from the CEO and potentially also the Board.

So, she asks you, “What makes you think a new project leader would be more successful?”

The answer is obvious to you.
You feel your heart rate start to rise.
Frustration sets in.

You tell yourself that Mary is an idiot. This is so obvious. The project is falling further behind. Again. The leader is not getting traction. And we need to put in place something to get the transformation moving now. You think to yourself that she’s slowing the group down and we need to act now.

What else is happening?

It’s likely you looked at the evidence again and couldn’t really explain how you drew your conclusion.

Rather than have an honest conversation about the story you told yourself and the story Mary is telling herself, the meeting gets tense and goes nowhere.

Neither of you has a complete picture or a logically constructed case. You are both running on intuition.

The next time you catch someone asking you about your story and you can’t explain it in a falsifiable way, pause, hit reset and test the rigour of your story.

What you really care about is finding the truth, even if that means the story you told yourself is wrong.

Why am I sharing this story with you?

In Clarity First we teach people 10 specific questions to ask when evaluating our communication that helps us to see whether our ideas ‘stack up'.

These are incredibly powerful and help you ‘step back' from your own ideas to evaluate them critically.

Take a look at the Clarity First Program to learn more.

We help you communicate so your complex ideas get the traction they deserve.

 

 

Keywords: #critical thinking #decision making #kahneman

 

Is killing PowerPoint really the solution?

Is killing PowerPoint really the solution?

Many have called for the Death of PowerPoint as they are understandably under-whelmed by so many presentations.

But given the many complex elements that make up a powerful presentation, it is too simplistic to blame the presentation tool. 

It is, after all, hugely powerful when managed well and so widely used it is hard to kill off.

So, the question remains: how do we create consistently powerful presentations with or without PowerPoint? 

Two words: stop rambling.

If the presenter gets to their point quickly they will engage their audience far better than dragging everyone through all the background detail and a seemingly endless list of irrelevant charts and diagrams first.

Here are four ideas to help you stop rambling your presentations (using whichever tool you prefer):

Firstly, the hard part: Identify the main point you need to make for this particular audience – your ‘so what' – and write it in a sentence.

Yes, just one. Write it in 25 words or less, in words that are simple and clear enough for someone removed from the situation, such as your grandmother, to understand.

Secondly, chunk your supporting points in a way that will work for your audience

Work out if you need to persuade your audience that this is the right big idea, or whether they will want to know how to implement it.

  • To persuade, you will need to choose to engage them through their minds with analysis, or to engage them personally through narrative story.
  • To provide an implementation plan, step out the actions one by one in logical order.
  • To do both, use deductive logic to prepare an argument story, incorporating what you judge to be the right balance of analysis and story.

Thirdly, create your PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Slides presentation) and get someone to help you with the visuals if they are critical to your presentation.

Neil Young of www.ogcommunicationdesign.com is both fast and fabulous. With or without Neil, make sure you have one message on each page and a diagram to match, avoiding too many bullet points and using font that is large enough for your audience to read. Wherever possible, use more pages rather than less.

As you have already worked out, there is quite an art to this.

Gene Zelazny of McKinsey & Company fame provides outstanding counsel on this subject in his two excellent books: Say it with Presentations and Say it with Charts. Both are available from his website: www.zelazny.com.

I take no fees from either Neil or Gene.

Lastly, make like Winston Churchill.

Wear a hole in the carpet as you walk back and forward in front of the mirror practicing until you get it right.

There really are no shortcuts, either with making a good presentation or with getting rid of PowerPoint.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Davina StanleyDavina Stanley is founder of the Clarity First Program, which helps mid-career experts communicate so their good ideas get the traction they deserve – fast.

Davina is a fan of PowerPoint (when used well) and of Neil Young who is a master information designer.

Neil can be contacted at neil@ogcommunicationdesign.com

Are poor emails harming your career?

Are poor emails harming your career?

 A ridiculous thought, isn't it?

Emails are a mundane and routine part of corporate life.

Most are short and many of us send and receive hundreds of them daily.

Business today cannot progress without them.

But what if your emails routinely elicit a groan from their recipients, so much so that they flag them for ‘later', and then often don't even open them?

Does this mean that you miss out on important responses, and also get a reputation for being frustrating to work with, sloppy in your thinking and someone who takes a long time to get things done?

Where does this leave your career?

This was the experience of a client this week who was stunned at the difference that changing her emailing style could create.

She found that by starting with just a  short introduction (perhaps just one sentence for a short email) and then getting to her key point straight away the response time rocketed and she

  • No longer had to chase people to get the information that she needed to do her job
  • Completed her work more quickly
  • Enjoyed doing her work so much – much – more, and
  • Loved the unaccustomed positive feedback she received from her colleagues and superiors

Now, imagine if this small change could be replicated across your whole organisation. Imagine if your whole team – from secretaries upward – were able to consistently make some small changes to the way they prepare their emails: business would move so much more smoothly for you.

Decisions would be made more quickly, there would be less frustration and more people would feel good about themselves at work.

And then extrapolate that further to think that the same techniques could be applied to other documents: board papers, steering committee papers and other presentations.

Imagine – an email-based productivity revolution.

Ridiculous!

In Clarity First we help people cut the amount of time it takes to both their communication – in any format, including email.

Clients tell me they cut the amount of time it takes to prepare important communication in half. Sometimes more.

They are also more likely to be promoted as their good ideas get the traction they deserve.

Why not check us out?

Clarity First is the most affordable top-tier program you will find.

 

 

Why writers need to educate readers on how to read their communication

Why writers need to educate readers on how to read their communication

The Minto Pyramid Principle is a widely lauded approach for preparing clearer business reports.

Developed by a McKinsey & Company team led by Barbara Minto in the 1960s, ‘pyramid’ helps people use logic and structure to organise their ideas into a logical and coherent reader-focused argument.

At Clarity First we love this approach.

It enables us to think top down, draw out insights quickly and communicate complex ideas clearly.

However, despite much evidence from our own work and its popularity across consulting and business strategy teams in particular, very little formal research has been undertaken into its actual effectiveness.

Perhaps it was enough to say “It’s McKinsey: It’s good”.

However, Dr Louise Cornelis (another ex-McKinsey communication specialist) recently changed this when working with a series of Masters’ students at Groningen University in Holland.

She undertook a qualitative study to understand whether preparing a business report using a ‘top-down, reader-focused pyramid structure’ was actually helpful to the reader.

Dr Cornelis’ findings demonstrate some irony.

Writers and readers don’t always agree on what is ‘reader-focused’ unless the writer first educates the reader about what ‘reader-focused’ actually means.

Here is why that seems to be true.

#1 – Audiences are hard wired into their old habits

It seems that our readers are hard-wired into what they expect and can be confused by a new way of doing things unless it is explained to them.

In the case of business reports, many people are accustomed to receiving reports written with titles such as ‘Executive Summary’, ‘Background’, ‘Issues’ and a ‘Conclusion’ at the end and are quite lost when these are absent.

They can be confused by Pyramid reports that ignore these section titles, preferring to instead have customized titles that reflect the content of the report: a bit like newspaper headlines.

#2 – Consultants and others using the approach often forget to explain how their approach works

When, however, the approach is explained they not only like the Pyramid Principle approach much better, but can read the documents significantly more quickly.

Readers who were provided with a short description of the structure before reading the documents were able to grasp the main message from a document almost five times faster than those with no preparatory explanation.

Dr Cornelis found that people very much appreciated the Pyramid Principle report-writing approach but only when they understood what it was trying to do.

So the next time have a good idea: remember to ensure your significant others understand the benefit, even when the idea is specifically for the them.

 

 

Keywords: design your strategy, develop your storyline, research

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Louise Cornelis is a communication consultant based in Rotterdam. Louise specialises in helping her clients use structure and logic to communicate clearly, having learned her craft at McKinsey & Company and honed it by working with a wide range of clients since.

She particularly enjoys grappling with complex challenges that relate to helping others not only communicate clearly, but want to do so. The Clarity First team very much enjoys thinking about these challenges in collaboration with Louise.

Transitioning Board Papers onto tablets is trickier than it seems

Transitioning Board Papers onto tablets is trickier than it seems

Many companies are moving away from physical paper for board papers in favour of tablets.

Directors seem generally grateful not to take phone-book sized packs away for their weekend reading and all would agree that less paper is usually better. However, transitioning to tablets is more complex than it seems.

Today's ‘Tips & techniques for board writing on iPads & tablets' session presented by Mary Morel of Write to Govern and hosted by the Governance Institute of Australia highlighted that point.

In coming away from that session, I realised that coming to grips with the technology is not as easy as it seems, macro structure matters most of all, visual presentation matters more than in the past and micro issues matter more than you might think. Here is some more on each of these points:

Coming to grips with the technology is not as easy as it seems

  • Directors often use different devices for different boards to accommodate each company's policy and platform, which adds unexpected complexity as they come to terms with each different technology as well as the content of the papers.
  • Page flipping is harder on a tablet than with actual paper. Consider inserting your charts and graphs within the body of your text rather than asking Directors to scroll to the back of the document to find the chart and scroll back to the place where they were mentioned in the text.

Macro structure matters most of all

  • Conveying the essence of your message crisply and near the front of the paper is the most critical ingredient of a good paper, otherwise Directors may misconstrue your purpose and meaning from the outset
  • Adopt a consistent structure across all of your board papers, and avoid having different templates for recommendations, noting papers, etc. This makes it easier for Directors to work their way through all of the papers for your organisation and easier for the writers also.

Visual presentation of information matters even more than in the past

  • Using photocopiers to scan the papers into PDF form can lead to ugly documents that are difficult to read. Instead, use a PDF writer to create your papers and then open your papers on the right sort of tablet to check their readability.
  • Many Directors find that rotating tablets mid-way to read diagrams is disruptive, and ask for a consistent orientation (either portrait or landscape) throughout the paper and appendices.

Micro matters more than you might think

  • Small things like grammatical correctness can be distracting for those reading the papers and present a poor image of the writer. Mary has written some excellent material on this point .
  • Active language (‘She wrote the letter' versus ‘the letter was written by her') is generally better to read. However some companies still require people to write in the third person, e.g., Management wrote the letter, which makes active voice harder to use.

Keywords – #board papers #deliver your communication #board communication

 

The Art and Science of Communicating Strategically

The Art and Science of Communicating Strategically

The Art and the Science of Powerful Communication

Many of us are asked to ‘be more strategic' in their communication.

But what exactly does that mean and how do you do it?

I share a series of tips through one powerful case study, which does at least three things. It

  1. Focuses on a commonly applicable topic
  2. Offers a complex story with lots of considerations to manage (ie that require both art AND science)
  3. Includes at least 3 takeaways you can use straight away

Click the play button below to learn more and here to download the handout and here for more program information and here for information for your manager.

 

* WATCH UNTIL THE END FOR BONUS DETAILS – EXPIRE ON 16 OCTOBER 2020 *

 

Bonuses expire 9pm AEST 16 October

1-1 Coaching sessions for early birds

Richard Medcalf of XQuadrant will offer the first 3 team leaders a 1-1 coaching session.

Davina Stanley of Clarity First will offer the first individuals a communication coaching session.

Kick start your learning with the two-part Accelerator Program

> Get going immediately so you can see results straight away

> Learn the basics so you have a strong foundation to build on

> Complete challenges so you do more than ‘know the stuff' … you can start to ‘DO the stuff'

Recordings will be available for those who cannot be present live, or who want to revisit the material.

Extend your strategic thinking skills by attending Richard Medcalf's intensive 90-minute workshop.

Recordings available for those who cannot make the 21 January session

Hi Davina
It’s s funny to listen to myself 🙂
Perfectly happy for you to use however you would like.
FYI – I also got an award for my great work today.  Nothing big but still, the recognition was nice.  I feel like much of it was thanks to the work I’ve done with you!
Thanks for creating such a great program.
See you next week!
Cerise
PS You can go here to hear Cerise's story along with that from several other program participants
Cerise

Program Manager, Sydney, Australia

This was the best course I have done. I was always confident in my reasoning but not as confident with presenting it, particularly to audiences that were not on my wavelength.

Davina has shown me how to organise my high level messages which gets me a better response from my audiences.

In fact, when I used the approach to present to the sales team last week half of them came up to me individually afterwards to compliment me on my presentation. That has never happened before!

Bojana

Customer Experience Advisor, Sydney, Australia

 

Clarity First was incredibly useful for me as it has provided a framework through which I am able to structure my initial thoughts quickly and easily.

I have always been OK at delivering communications, but the tools Davina has taught me will not only make the communications clearer and more concise but the time taken to get to the end point has reduced greatly.

I recommend the course to anyone who wants to make existing skills even better or for those that want to create the foundations for great communication.

Michaela Flanagan

GM Performance and Strategy, Insurance Industry

Keywords: Art and Science of communicating complex ideas, workshop, free

Communicate your main message early

Communicate your main message early

 

Is it a bit bold to put your ‘main message' up front?

 

Some people tell me they think that putting their main message early in their communication feels a bit like ‘shouting'. Although I understand the concern, I would encourage you to look at this from a different perspective.

Possibly one that seems quite upside down.

All of our audiences – including ourselves – are very busy. Usually we think we are TOO busy. 

Outlining our message early in our communication is confident, but also incredibly helpful for our busy audiences.

Click the video below to learn more about the Clarity First approach, and here to get more ideas on how to master this approach in your own career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board Directors want thinking skills first, coding skills second (or third)

I came across a terrific article in the Australian Financial Review today that quotes two of Australia's most prominent board directors, Catherine Livingstone and David Gonski.

They had a thing or two to say at a recent education conference, which I thought might interest you too.

They suggested that rather than teaching our young people to code, we first need to teach them to think.

I drew three core ideas from the article:

  1. Both have been heavily influenced by school teachers who encouraged them to never accept mediocrity, and to keep trying, even when their results were very good.
  2. Both also advocate ‘less as more' in education. Less filling students' heads with as much knowledge as possible, and more focus on leaving space to open minds such that students are taught to think logically and analytically.
  3. Both had something useful for those of us who communicate to senior business audiences, such as boards.

Livingstone said: “I get quite taken aback sometimes when I see something written or proposed, on the lack of logic in developing an argument.”

Gonski added: “We have to have a broadness and openness … knowledge is important but the analysis of knowledge has to be taught.”

So, while a lot of attention is paid to polishing the delivery of our communication, it seems to me Australia's top decision makers are crying out for a clear and logical argument.

To learn to learn how to communicate complex ideas in a way that resonates with senior leaders, check out the Clarity First Program. It's our speciality.

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.

She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid Principle. She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia.

Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk.